Probe announced into Britain's 'worst road'Ex-transport boss will head inquiry into A12

10 April 2008

Cars in a traffic jam

A former transport boss is to chair an inquiry into 'Britain's worst road' - six months after he and his wife were caught in a traffic jam on the route.

Sir David Rowlands, who retired as Permanent Secretary at the Department for Transport in May, will head a three-day probe into the A12 in Essex.

The Essex County Council-led inquiry is the first in the UK to be set up by a local authority into the performance of an existing road.

Delays

Last year, the dual carriageway route was named as the worst in Britain in a survey carried out by Cornhill Insurance.

Sir David, who lives near Chelmsford, Essex, said he was among thousands of motorists caught in long delays following an accident on the A12 in October.

'My wife and I were going to the Stour Valley RSPB nature reserve and we got caught in it,' he said.

'It took us about two hours to get off the A12. It certainly helped reinforce my interest in improving it.'

Influence

Sir David said he was never able to influence policy relating to his home county during his time working for the government.

'When I was at the Department for Transport, I very carefully did not allow any personal interest to dictate what I or the department did,' he said.

'Now I'm retired, I can certainly help.'

Cost of inquiry

Lord Hanningfield, leader of the council, said the exact cost of the inquiry - to be held on April 17, May 1 and May 19 - was not known but was likely to be a 'few thousand pounds'.

He added: 'I think the A12 is possibly the worst road in the UK. Surely any government would have to do something about that.'

He said it was a road of 'national importance' and vital to the country's economy.

Widening

The inquiry will look at improving the running of the route, safety measures and the possibility of widening it to three lanes.

The inquiry's findings will be presented to the government as part of a bid to secure extra funding, the council said.

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